Diversify in earnest

Diversify in earnest

SUSTAINABLE agriculture, which aims to feed the ever-growing population with available natural resources without harming the environment and draining natural resources (soil and water), has become the need of the hour.

Parveen Arora

SUSTAINABLE agriculture, which aims to feed the ever-growing population with available natural resources without harming the environment and draining natural resources (soil and water), has become the need of the hour. Not only farmers, but also agriculture experts are working hard to raise productivity by using natural resources in an eco-friendly way. Some methods are being adopted by the farmers enthusiastically, while a majority of them are still lagging behind due to lack of knowledge, infrastructure and institutional support in linking laboratory research to farming.

Haryana has a rice-wheat-dominated cropping system, limiting crop diversification in absence of an assured market for other crops. However, the state government has started various schemes to promote sustainable agriculture.

Dr Suresh Gahlawat, Additional Director, Agriculture Department, says, “Mera Pani, Meri Virasat scheme has been started to replace paddy with maize, cotton, bajra and pulses. Incentives are given to farmers. The crop residue management system aims to discourage farmers from burning stubble so as to maintain soil health. Up to 80 per cent subsidy is given to individual farmers and groups, societies etc. for purchasing agriculture implements.” Soil health cards are being issued to farmers of the state for balancing the application of macro as well as micro nutrients so that the requirement of nutrient uptake by the plants can be met, thereby increasing the productivity of various crops.

“Our ultimate mandate is the overall growth of the farmers by maintaining sustainability in agriculture. I appeal to the farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture by involving themselves in various schemes of the department,” says Dr Gahlawat.

Dr Wazir Singh, Deputy Director, Agriculture, Panchkula, says the farmers are gradually adopting this system. “The government is promoting sustainable agriculture by introducing various schemes. Around 35,000 hectares have already been shifted to other crops from paddy after the launching of Mera Pani, Meri Virasat,” he adds.

Experts say a lot of work still has to be done in the field. Dr PC Sharma, Director, Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), Karnal, says there is a need to apprise farmers of the benefits of sustainable agriculture with respect to the maintenance of natural soil health and underground water.

Dr Ranbir Singh, Principal Scientist, CSSRI, who has been working in the field of evolution of resource conservation technology in the rice-wheat cropping system since 2006, says direct seeded rice (DSR) and zero tillage wheat with rice residue management are better and cost-effective in comparison to the conventional methods of rice and wheat cultivation. “DSR saves 30-35 per cent irrigation water, 27 per cent labour and 30 per cent energy. It also increases water productivity and soil fertility, so farmers should adopt this method to preserve natural resources,” he adds.

Farmers are of the view that the government should ensure ground-level implementation of the schemes on sustainable agriculture to encourage farmers. “Crop diversification can be beneficial to farmers only if there is an assured market for diversified crops. Besides, there is a need for affordable availability of crop residue management equipments for small and marginal farmers,” says Rajesh Kumar, a progressive farmer from Kurukshetra district.

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